Is U.S. Economic Growth Over?

Forget the stagnationists. Here are reasons to be cheerful.

A provocative new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper [PDF] by Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon makes for depressing reading. Gordon argues that over the coming century, U.S. economic growth could drop from the 2 percent per year rate it averaged for the last 150 years to less than 0.2 percent per year. Economic growth will slow, he says, because the one-time productivity boosts from three successive industrial revolutions—steam, electricity and internal combustion, and the Internet—are now played out. If that's not gloomy enough, Gordon identifies six “headwinds” that will further stall American economic growth. These factors include an aging population, a faltering educational system, rising income inequality, competition from globalization, stifling regulations, and the overhang of massive government and consumer debt.

There's no question that the sort of economic growth we in the developed world take for granted is an aberration in history. Gordon points out that in the United Kingdom between 1300 and 1700, GDP per capita rose at about 0.2 percent per year. In concrete terms, during the time of Edward Longshanks (1237-1307), average per capita GDP in England was $1,150 in today’s prices. By 1800, that had tripled all the way up to $3,450 per capita. Then it doubled again, to about $6,350, shortly after the turn of the 20th century.  At the beginning of the 20th century, the United States supplanted the U.K. as the world’s productivity leader and annual U.S. GDP per capita doubled between 1929 and 1957—from $8,000 to $16,000—and doubled again, to $32,000, by 1988.  

If the U.S. were on track to double GDP per capita in the 30 years following 1988 that would imply an annual growth rate of 2.35 percent (setting aside complications like population growth). Instead, the U.S. GDP per capita has grown at 1.6 percent annually since 1988. At that growth rate, GDP per capita would not reach $64,000 until 2031. Currently, U.S. GDP per capita is about $47,000 , so doubling  it from its 1988 base by 2018 to $64,000 implies an annual 5.35 percent growth rate for the next six years.

Good luck with that: Such a rate would be more than triple the actual GDP per capita growth rate the U.S. has experienced since 1988.  Keep in mind that since 1970, the annual U.S. per capita GDP growth rate has exceeded 5 percent only once, in 1984 at 6.26 percent. Even during the Long Boom years of the 1990s, annual per capita GDP growth was over 3 percent only in 1997, 1998, and 1999.  More bad news: The per capita GDP growth rate between 2001 and 2010 was 0.62 percent. At that rate, it would take another 50 years from U.S. average per GDP to rise from $47,000 today to $64,000.

Gordon notes that the various technologies associated with the three different industrial revolutions dramatically increased labor productivity. So, for the first time in all of human history, people could experience doubled incomes over the course of their lives. Such atypical progress meant that hundreds of millions of people escaped the abject poverty that had long been humanity's lot.

It's worth recounting how technology undergirds economic growth and a general rise in wealth and well-being. By powering railroads and ships in new and powerful ways, the steam revolution dramatically cut transportation times and costs. The subsequent rise of electricity and the internal combustion engine utterly transformed work and home life. The widespread adoption of indoor plumbing and purified water supplies improved health and began the steep rise in average life expectancy. Gordon notes that an 1886 survey in North Carolina estimated that the average housewife had to walk 148 miles per year while carrying 35 tons of water.

The availability of electricity made home and work life far more pleasant and easy; cars, trucks, and tractors eliminated the costs of draft animals; and modern chemistry made all sorts of new convenient products available. Communications and entertainment became cheaper and more accessible with the invention of the telephone, phonograph, radio, and motion pictures. Yet such gains were not indefinite. "The growth of productivity (output per hour) slowed markedly after 1970," writes Gordon. "While puzzling at the time, it seems increasingly clear that the one-time-only benefits of the Great Inventions and their spin-offs had occurred and could not happen again. Diminishing returns set in.”

What about the revolution in communications, data analysis, and connectivity ushered in by the rise of computers and the Internet? Gordon concedes that it helped productivity for a while but it too suffers from diminishing returns and that by the last decade it was evident that “the era of computers replacing human labor was over.” While acknowledging that “no one should step into the trap of predicting that innovation will come to an end,” Gordon does not foresee any new industrial revolutions that are likely to give a big boost to labor productivity and spur the growth of GDP per capita.

If that's not gloomy enough, there are the half-dozen “headwinds” he believes will make forward progress virtually impossible. The first of these is that the demographic dividend paid when women entered the labor force en masse has been spent. This raised hours per capita and allow real per-capita GDP to grow faster than output per hour. Now retiring baby boomers are reversing that trend. One way to address this issue would be to raise the age of retirement. After all, in 1950, the average 65-year old had half a chance of living another 14 years [PDF], now their life expectancy has increased to 19 years.

The second headwind? U.S. educational attainment plateaued 20 years ago and students in other developed nations are outcompeting Americans. Education plays a critical role in increasing productivity and incomes. For example, the weekly wage of Americans with a bachelor’s degree is just a bit less than double that of high school graduates. Fixing our moribund public schools has proven next to impossible, but growing competition from charter schools and home schooling - along with innovations in online learning—might enable more Americans to escape from government-imposed educational mediocrity.

Rising inequality is Gordon’s third headwind. He is worried that the growth in median family incomes has actually been slower than the growth in GDP per capita. From 1993 to 2008, average household incomes grew at 1.3 percent annually, but for the bottom 99 percent of American families the annual increase was just 0.75 percent. If wages stagnate for a sizeable portion of the population, they consume less, which ultimately slows growth. Domestic inequality is compounded, says Gordon, by a globalization headwind by which inexpensive foreign labor out-competes Americans. Over the course of the next century, however, the force of this headwind is likely to diminish as the world sees wages converge (as countries become richer through trade, they tend to pay their workers similarly to those in other countries). And for all the talk about rising inequality in the absolute spread of incomes, economic mobility—the ability to move from one income group to the next - has not changed in the past 40 or 50 years.

Gordon’s fifth headwind relates to regulation and energy production. Environmental regulations and energy restrictions are boosting the costs of production and cutting down on consumption. While there are health and other benefits stemming from some of regulations, estimates of how economically burdensome the regulatory state is range from the Obama administration lowball estimate of a mere $67 billion [PDF] annually to the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute’s $1.8 trillion cost per year.

Gordon’s final headwind is the government and private debt hangover which could well cut investment and consumptions for some time to come. To get a sense of how big this problem is, consider that the current national debt is over $16 trillion, which is basically the size of our economy. And, according to the free-market National Center for Policy Analysis, the federal government’s unfunded liabilities stand at around $84 trillion. Such "debt overhang" has demonstrable negative effects on economic growth. As economists Carmen Reinhart, Vincent Reinhart, and Kenneth Rogoff have shown, when government debt exceeds 90 percent of GDP for five years or more, future economic growth is reduced by 1.2 percentage points annually for more than two decades.

In a general sense, Gordon is echoing many of the concerns voiced by economist Mancur Olson in his The Rise and Decline of Nations (1982). Olson argued that economic stagnation and even decline sets in when powerful special-interest lobbies—crony capitalists if you will—capture a country’s regulatory system and use it to block competitors making the economy ever less efficient. Gordon’s Northwestern University colleague, economic historian Joel Mokyr, expressed similar fears in his mesmerizing The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy (2002). "Sooner or later in any society the progress of technology will grind to a halt because the forces that used to support innovation become vested interests,” argued Mokyr. He concluded, “In a purely dialectical fashion, technological progress creates the very forces that eventually destroy it."

To tally up just how little economic growth we can expect going forward, Gordon subtracts his headwinds' effect from the average 1.8 percent annual growth in per capita GDP between 1987 and 2007. The dismal result is just 0.2 percent growth rate. Gordon ultimately admits that his 0.2 percent figure “was chosen for ‘shock value’ as the rate of growth for the U.K. between 1300 and 1700.” However, he adds, “Any other number below 1.0 percent could be chosen and it would represent an epochal decline in growth from the U.S. record of the last 150 years of 2.0 percent annual growth rate in output per capita.”

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • John||

    Since when does income inequality stop growth? And what possible reason is there to believe that technology has peaked? What a stupid article.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    If anything, income inequality drives growth. People push hard to get ahead.

  • Keith3D||

    Perhaps his logic is that more people will vote for socialism and redistribution. Though technically it's the state-mandated reduction in inequality that does the actual impeding of growth.

  • Rick Santorum||

    Foolishness. There are plenty of European countries who are doing quite well with their "socialist" models. In fact, they have a much greater degree of mandated equality than Americans do (though some, such as Sweden, have a greater degree of economic freedom, if I do recall).

    Point being, taxing the wealthy and using that money to provide basic necessities for everyone is not inherently a bad policy.

  • Rick Santorum||

    I should add that it only becomes a bad policy when the government seeks to overstep its bounds and the people decide they'd rather sit on their asses then work.

  • Marshall Gill||

    I should add that it only becomes a bad policy when the government seeks to overstep its bounds and the people decide they'd rather sit on their asses then work.

    Only? When does this NOT happen? Oh, that's right, NEVER. Which is why your first post is entirely stupid.

  • hotsy totsy||

    Rather than work, then sit on their asses.

  • dinkster||

    Since when is Sweden economically free? Or did you confuse that with Switzerland?

    USE TAX is not an inherently bad policy, and as the wealthy tend to USE MORE STUFF, they subsequently generate more tax revenue. Property tax (all kinds of property, from land to buckets of legos) is regressive and evil. Property tax is capital gains tax, income tax, corporate tax, etc.. etc..

  • dinkster||

    Use tax = consumption tax, for the uninitiated

  • dinkster||

    If technology hasn't peaked, the government will make damn sure it does.

  • dbcooper||

    Increasing cost/difficulty of semiconductor miniaturization (aka slowing Moore's Law) is another "headwind".

    Then there's the limits of manufacturing with silicon processes - when do they bottom out? 7 micron? 3 micron?

  • dbcooper||

    nanometer not micron. gahhhh

  • dinkster||

    Every time some fruity ding bat comes out and says silicon is dead, Intel goes LOL and pops out some amazing new dielectric materially that has twice the thermal conductivity and a fourth of the electron tunneling problems, that will last for ten more years. ALWAYS bet on silicon.

  • Paul.||

    American economic growth, e.g., an aging population, a faltering educational system, rising income inequality, competition from globalization, stifling regulations, and the overhang of massive government and consumer debt.

    Uhm, what does the bold have to do with any of it? Haven't we beaten this dead 'rising income inequality' horse to death?

    At the beginning of the game, your bottom earner makes $0 and your top earner makes $1, then ten turns later your bottom earner still makes only $0 and your top earner now makes $3, that's a sign of 'rising income inequality'.

  • Rick Santorum||

    Income inequality prevents the working class from purchasing goods and services, which lowers the demand for American goods and services, which weakens the economy. They also don't have the ability to save and invest any extra money.

    I know that libertarians worship the rich, but a healthy middle class is good for the economy.

  • Paul.||

    That statement presumes a lot.

    It presumes that these "goods and services" will only exist in a single price band-- that band being out of reach from the lower classes.

    Income inequality isn't a problem if your regulatory structure allows people to create goods services at lower prices. When you have a regulatory structure that makes it impossible or too costly, then yes, your income inequality will be a problem. But the solution won't be to 'force' through income equality, but to remove the barriers to trade which make income inequality a problem.

  • Rick Santorum||

    I'm sure that's true to some extent, it doesn't change the abysmal working conditions and pay of America in the late 1800s / early 1900s, when there was very little regulation involved in business (at least not compared to today).

    I'm skeptical of free market capitalism resulting in anything other than a two-tiered society of those who have and those who have not.

  • Paul.||

    Notice how we're less and less capitalistic, and we're more and more two-tiered?

    Yeah, so did I.

    The days of a kid starting a [fill-in-the-blank] stand and building an empire out of it are long, long gone. Because the moment he shows up with his stand, he's shut down on half a dozen licensure violations.

    If you want to see how a more capitalistic system does it, look at the history of Hong Kong. The governor of Hong Kong (in the early days) actually refused to keep statistics on trade and the economy, because he knew that once policy makers got wind of a pile of cash moving somewhere through the economy, they'd be too tempted to steal it. Because that's how they do.

  • Rick Santorum||

    Oh, I agree that the United States is far more socialist than our elected officials want us to believe, and I believe that direct wealth transfers (such as Social Security) are terrible policy, but I'm also not ignorant of the awful standards of living present under the capitalist system of the Gilded Age to the Great Depression. We've had periods of economic growth and prosperity with socialist policies, and we've had periods of economic growth and prosperity with capitalist policies.

    While I have libertarian tendencies, I am unwilling to throw the baby out with the bath water. I'm just not sure that abolishing the FDA and EPA will raise the standard of living when we live in an economy of corporate malfeasance and corruption.*

    Now, you can argue that corporations have too much power because they're in bed with the government, and I'd agree, but that doesn't change the historical existence of company towns and the like. I think there is a balance of power between the private and public sector that needs to be struck in order for a society to prosper.

    *I am an economic nationalist, which means I believe that it is the moral duty of business to serve the interests of the nation, not their stock portfolios. Yes, that makes me one of "those people" who thinks that corporate greed is evil and bad for society.

  • dinkster||

    I think corporations traditionally served the interests of people, because if they didn't they wouldn't make any revenue. Now they don't have to because they ARE in bed with the government.

  • Rick Santorum||

    It's possible I'm wrong. I realize that I've been brainwashed by a dozen years in the public school system taught and a few more in a liberal arts university, so maybe I'm regurgitating lies I've been force-fed since I learned the alphabet.

    It's possible I'm right, too.

    It's also possible American history was vastly changed by the total devastation of the South in the Civil War and Reconstruction and to speak of "free markets" in such a time is to ignore the total devastation of the South and the industrialization of the North spurred by the war.

    Who knows?

  • dinkster||

    Who knows?

    When it is a craps shoot, might as well roll for the side of liberty.

  • ||

    I am an economic nationalist, which means I believe that it is the moral duty of business to serve the interests of the nation, not their stock portfolios.

    Not trying to Godwin here, but that sounds suspiciously like one of the rungs on the ladder to fascism.

  • dinkster||

    Not trying to Godwin here, but that sounds suspiciously like one of the rungs on the ladder to fascism.

    I wasn't going to say anything, but yeah

  • Rick Santorum||

    [i]Not trying to Godwin here, but that sounds suspiciously like one of the rungs on the ladder to fascism.[/i]

    Aren't libertarians supposed to be smarter than liberals? Defaulting to high-pitched whining about FASCISM is only slightly above shouting RACIST about criticizing The One.

  • ||

    I'm not crying "FASCISM!" at you, but I am making the statement that what you said is a commonly held belief of fascists. You may not be one, probably aren't, and that's fine. But that statement accords with their views on economic regulation.

  • ||

    Considering Fascism is a defined governing system that involves morally imposed state control, there is no reason to not talk about it.

    The keystone of the Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, its
    functions, and its aims. For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups
    relative. Individuals and groups are admissible in so far as they come within the
    State.

    -- Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism

    sounds quite a bit like

    I am an economic nationalist, which means I believe that it is the moral duty of business to serve the interests of the nation, not their stock portfolios.

    -- "Rick Santorum", Reason Comments

    So calling out the inherent Fascism of your statement is not "lazy" or "whining" it is simply making a valid comparison.

  • Rick Santorum||

    So calling out the inherent Fascism of your statement is not "lazy" or "whining" it is simply making a valid comparison.

    Anything less than total amoral capitalism is fascism.

  • Paul.||

    While I have libertarian tendencies, I am unwilling to throw the baby out with the bath water. I'm just not sure that abolishing the FDA and EPA will raise the standard of living when we live in an economy of corporate malfeasance and corruption.*

    This is for a bigger discussion later. We can keep the EPA but make major reforms as to how these federal agencies operate, actually leaving them (in my opinion) perfectly consitutional.

    *I am an economic nationalist, which means I believe that it is the moral duty of business to serve the interests of the nation, not their stock portfolios

    Negative. Because that invites economic fascism. "Your business practices don't serve the national interest, business license denied!" Next thing you know, Chick-Fil-A can't get a license because one of their founders said something icky about abortion. Believe me, it could happen.

  • dinkster||

    Tis OK Paul, he already compared us to racists.

  • Rick Santorum||

    Negative. Because that invites economic fascism. "Your business practices don't serve the national interest, business license denied!" Next thing you know, Chick-Fil-A can't get a license because one of their founders said something icky about abortion. Believe me, it could happen.

    That's not what I was advocating, and I'm pretty sure you're aware of it. As I said, it was the moral duty of businesses to serve the national interest, not that they should be legally obligated to serve national interest. My main concern is ending outsourcing and returning Americna manufacturing jobs.

  • ||

    ...under the capitalist system of the Gilded Age to the Great Depression.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    *deep breath*

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    You're adorable.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Rick Santorum,

    it doesn't change the abysmal working conditions and pay of America in the late 1800s / early 1900s, when there was very little regulation involved in business (at least not compared to today).

    I have no idea where you get this from. In the first place, the level of increased productivity in the late 1800's and early 1900's was raising wages across the board, so much so the US attracted many immigrants from Europe and Asia. Regulations do not increase produtivity, so your contention that, sans regulations, incomes cannot raise is specious.

    Secondly, this idea that working conditions were terrible because of a lack of regulations is also contradicted by data that shows that work related injuries and deaths was on the negative slope, as more and more people got wealthier and competition demanded better working conditions. When OSHA was established, the downward slope of work-related injuries and deaths was enough to make the new agency irrelevant, which is why it is now one of the most hated institutions, among businesses. I believe you have NO grasp of the subject you talk about.

    I'm skeptical of free market capitalism resulting in anything other than a two-tiered society of those who have and those who have not.

    As opposed to unfree, non-market economies that clearly result in a two-tiered society of workers and political elites, regardless of your skepticism?

  • OldMexican||

    Sorry, it is "your contention that, sans regulations, incomes cannot rise is specious."

  • Calidissident||

    Bringing up the Gilded Age while ignoring context is dumb. Were people wealthy and prosperous before the Industrial Revolution? No, of course not. Is it reasonable to expect that to change overnight? I don't think so. By today's standards, people were poor in 1930, but their standard of living was far greater than in 1830.

  • NeonCat||

    I consider myself working class. I bought goods and services today.

    I don't worship the rich, either.

    Maybe you know a lot less than you think you do.

  • Rick Santorum||

    When was the last time you fought for tax breaks for the poor and middle class? When was the last time you went into a frothing rage at the suggestion that the wealthy pay even sligthly higher taxes than everyone else?

  • Paul.||

    When was the last time you fought for tax breaks for the poor and middle class?

    Every time I fill out my ballot.

    When was the last time you went into a frothing rage at the suggestion that the wealthy pay even sligthly higher taxes than everyone else?

    Not sure how to answer this, they already do.

  • Pro Libertate||

    And it isn't "slightly."

  • Paul.||

    I'm in my polite mood.

  • Pro Libertate||

    You know that just gets you in more trouble.

  • Rick Santorum||

    Personally, I think the Buffet rule should be implemented and capital gains tied to the income tax. Then I believe that the government should be downsized and the markets freed. Am I a socialist?

  • ||

    If the markets are freed, then what assurances do you have that businesses will put the needs of "the nation" ahead of their own stock portfiolios? This doesn't jive with what you said upthread.

  • Rick Santorum||

    I don't think that they will. The only way to cause that to happen is to make them moral, which is (naturally) an endeavor doomed to failure. The best course of action is to ensure that their businesses benefit American society, not merely their pocketbooks.

    I'm against globalization. I want American businesses in America to succeed, not American businesses that move to China. (Yes, this is partially caused by undue regulatory burden, but it's also caused by the Chinese willing to work for wages that American's won't tolerate because they'd starve.)

  • ||

    The only way to cause that to happen is to make them moral, which is (naturally) an endeavor doomed to failure. The best course of action is to ensure that their businesses benefit American society, not merely their pocketbooks.

    You have a fucked up notion of morality. Nothing is more moral than producing goods and services and making a profit doing it.

    Yes you have "...been brainwashed by a dozen years in the public school system taught [sic] and a few more in a liberal arts university..."

  • dinkster||

    No, but downsizing the government while giving them more money is the funniest thing I've heard in a while.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Rick Santorum,

    Personally, I think the Buffet rule should be implemented and capital gains tied to the income tax. Then I believe that the government should be downsized and the markets freed. Am I a socialist?

    You're no economist, of that I am sure. How exactly does raising the tax burden help "free" the markets or downsize the goverment is beyond me. Bringing it up along with the other things is an example of a non sequitur.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Mary Stack?

  • ||

    I think the Buffet rule should be implemented and capital gains tied to the income tax.

    Capital gains realized on investments held for less than 1 year are already taxed as ordinary income at whatever rate bracket you fall into. So are you saying you'd like to keep things as they are, or that you want to tax the same money as both capital gains and income?

  • NeonCat||

    You know what? I give up. I give up on people. They WANT to be mastered. They want to be coddled, taken care of, looked down upon but spoken of as if they were the most precious snowflakes ever, 'cause without self-esteem they know they're nothing. Only a few kooks around here like myself really want liberty, and we're accused of trying to bring about a new gilded age by people like you.

    You know what? It's already here. Your champions of the poor are millionaires taking donations from billionaires, all of them laughing at the poor behind their backs. Government won't help, it's the problem. It's a giant slush fund that helps the connected, and brother, if you ain't connected you might get some government cheese if you're lucky, but for sure you ain't getting the gravy train gorgonzola.

    So go ahead, advocate eating the rich, peddle your platitudes about the poor and disappearing middle class. Your political masters smile when you say it, because they know you never will remove them. You're just another useful idiot.

    Is that rage frothy enough for you, Rick?

  • Rick Santorum||

    Well, I'm not voting for Obama.

  • Marshall Gill||

    You aren't? Why not? He says the same things that you have said here.

  • Hollywood||

    *salutes to NeonCat*

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Rick Santorum,

    Income inequality prevents the working class from purchasing goods and services, which lowers the demand for American goods and services, which weakens the economy.

    Thus spake the economics ignoramus.

    Income inequality only means that some people make more money than others. That does not mean those that make less are thus precluded from purchasing goods or services.

    You're living up to your namesake's ignorance of economics.

    They also don't have the ability to save and invest any extra money.

    Another lie. Just because Justin Bieber makes more money than I does not mean I'm precluded from saving or investing. One thing has nothing to do with the other.

    I know that libertarians worship the rich, but a healthy middle class is good for the economy


    Non sequitur. Even if the second was true, it does not mean that the rich preclude the economy from growing. The reverse is true.

  • hotsy totsy||

    I'm always annoyed when someone uses the term "working" class. Like if you're a CEO or stockbroker, you don't actually work.

  • dbcooper||

    Food for thought:

    http://iopscience.iop.org/0957-4484/22/24/245303/

    M J Kelly 2011 Nanotechnology 22 245303 doi:10.1088/0957-4484/22/24/245303

    Intrinsic top-down unmanufacturability

    Although small structures can be fabricated by deposition, lithography and etching, in some cases their intrinsic variability precludes their use as elements in useful arrays. Manufacture is a proper subset of fabrication. We show that structures with 3 nm design rules can be fabricated but not manufactured in a top-down approach—they do not have the reproducibility to give a satisfactory yield to a pre-ordained specification. It is also shown that the transition from manufacturability to intrinsic unmanufacturability takes place at nearer 7 nm design rules.

  • Paul.||

    Perhaps some new technology will be invented that will increase the carrying capacity of a world using only woodfires for heat.

  • Paul.||

    Interesting article. "Moore's law is collapsing... except we keep figuring out ways to extend it"

    http://techland.time.com/2012/.....happening/

  • ||

    they do not have the reproducibility to give a satisfactory yield to a pre-ordained specification.

    Funny...I guess we can stop believing in germs again...nanotech engineers have determined that according to their own own work microscopic factories cannot exist.

  • dbcooper||

    Feel free to bring a bacteria based CPU to market within 10 years

  • ||

    *points at head

    One already exists and has been on the market before the market existed.

    You are taking the article's claims too seriously. All it says is that current fabrication methods have played out....time to come up with new ones.

    Of course current fabrication methods have been played out since the first fabrication method.

    We know proccessing power can get a shit load smaller then it is today. And we know unthinking processes (natural selection) can produce it.

    Why the sudden skepticism that thinking processes can't replicate it?

  • dinkster||

    dbcooper is a bit out of his element I think. They are putting transistors on nano-tubes. Lithography is old news too. Traditional computing is still heading towards the quantum limit (ideal of course is one electron per bit), but there are various other avenues of research that easily over come these "limitations".

  • dbcooper||

    The 5nm node is scheduled for 7 years from now (2019). That is an enormous challenge. E-UV lithography is still in doubt, despite the enormous investment in vendors from Intel, TMSC etc.

    What does "putting transistors on nano-tubes" mean? Do you mean carbon nanotubes as transistors?

    Do you really think that within 7 years there will be a viable alternative to Si/photolithography for mass production? Have you ever been in a cleanroom?

  • Paul.||

    Have you ever been in a cleanroom?

    In my house? Are you kidding?

  • dinkster||

    Carbon nanotube; you take it and dope it, then put it next to a switchable em-field, and you have a transistor. A VERY small transistor that may even exhibit peltier effects. You might even be able to make it out of graphene.

    Intel plays close to the chest, so that 7 year prediction in the transistor world is about as solid as AGW.

    As far as viable alternatives go, there are dozens upon dozens of semiconducting materials, we have barely even begun to make wafers using GaAs (cellphones), let alone the other III-V compounds. GaN lases, and is getting cheaper daily. All of them conduct better than Si. Lots of them clock in the 100's of GHz range. Silicon is the cheapest because we have been doing it the longest. The biggest hurdle has always been the dielectric strength between the gate and the field effect channel related to the physical scaling.

    Remember, physical scaling is only one facet of wafer optimization, it isn't a set in stone practice.

  • dinkster||

    The size of the wafer ONLY MATTERS when high speed jitter and heat create problems with data stability. Moore's Law is not a scaling prediction, it is a transistor count prediction. As it stands, transistors are old news, we now care about making QUBITS works.

  • ||

    In a provocative new study, Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon argues that the U.S. may face a century of economic stagnation.

    Some guy like that, circa 1912: "We face a century of economic stagnation! We're gonna have the cities become unliveable from all the horse poo, the economic benefits from railroads have all played out, etc."

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    He concluded, “In a purely dialectical fashion, technological progress creates the very forces that eventually destroy it."

    Anybody who talks dialectics... Sorry, I'd continue, but my eyes just glazed over.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That statement reminds me of the Photojournalist from Apocalypse Now.

  • Paul.||

    :)

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    That statement reminds me of the Photojournalist from Apocalypse Now.

    Aw, damn! Now I'm going to have to watch Apocalypse Now.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I just re-watched it last week. What a great movie. It's free right now on Amazon Prime, if you partake.

  • ||

    In a purely dialectical fashion, technological progress creates the very forces that eventually destroy it.

    The reverse is also true. Without innovation the forces that weaken it also weaken and stagnate. How can they adopt to sniffling something that is destroyed?

    Without the constant threat of competition the mechanisms to defend against it will deteriorate.

    It is not as if US Steel and Standard Oil did not exist and it is not as if they still exist today.

  • OldMexican||

    Economic growth will slow, he [Robert Gordon] says, because the one-time productivity boosts from three successive industrial revolutions - steam, electricity and internal combustion, and the Internet - are now played out.

    You mean people have everything they want, finally?

  • ||

    Statists like stasis.

    Ever since socialism was revealed to be a system that led to economic stagnation and technological stasis, the socialists have been trying to sell the idea that economic stasis is a good thing. It looks like their tactic has now changed to that it's an inevitable, normal thing that we should embrace. Let's all just give up on the concept of progress, accept a static level of technology, and be happy.

    It's not in the least bit surprising that this is happening at the exact moment that a left-leaning President happens to be embracing exactly the kind of economic policies that the socialists have been dreaming of, and that this is (not coincidentally) leading to exactly the kind of stagnation it always has.

  • ||

    But, but...we're the "progressive" party.

    /the left

  • DRM||

    "the era of computers replacing human labor [is] over.”

    Uh-huh. Yeah, sure, transistor densities are still going up literally exponentially, but there's nothing new we're ever going to be able to do with the capacity that hasn't yet been invented.

    The stupid, it burns.

  • ||

    The iphone 6 is likely to be mostly assembled by robots.

    I don't even think we have come close to replacing the human labor with the current amount of computer proccessing we have now let alone the proccessing power of what the ultimate proccessing power of silicon computing can provide.

    The only reason why we still use human labor to make carp is because the human labor in the developing world is cheap (china) and the crap keeps on changing.

    Well if consumer product innovation stagnates (crap stops changing) and labor costs go up (they are) then one would expect innovation in manufacturing to increase.

  • OldMexican||

    Now retiring baby boomers are reversing that trend. One way to address this issue would be to raise the age of retirement.

    How about NO age of retirement? Gordon is still thinking in terms of FORCED or SUBSIDIZED retirement.

    Education plays a critical role in increasing productivity and incomes.

    Depends on which productive endeavor we're talking about.

    Rising inequality is Gordon’s third headwind.

    Which is totally made up.

    He is worried that the growth in median family incomes has actually been slower than the growth in GDP per capita.

    What does this have to do with "income inequality"? People got richer much faster (increasing the income gap) during the 1800's yet the standard of living and incomes of most Americans rose quicker as well, faster than today.

    The problem is not income inequality but the debasement of the currency, which destroys savings and incentivizes consumption. The headwind should then be lack of sound money, not "income inequality."

  • Joakim||

    Hogwash. There is so much unpicked low-hanging fruit on the internet, that alone invalidates Gordon's thesis. Not to mention robotics is about to hit hockey stick growth in the next couple decades, not sure why Ron doesn't mention that. As protefeed notes, there have been silly people making similar predictions for a long time, stupidly using a rear-view mirror to try and forecast the future.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    Foxconn has not disclosed how many workers will be displaced or when. But its chairman, Terry Gou, has publicly endorsed a growing use of robots. Speaking of his more than one million employees worldwide, he said in January, according to the official Xinhua news agency: “As human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.”

    I like this guy.

  • dinkster||

    stupidly using a rear-view mirror to try and forecast the future.

    So every economist, ever?

  • Joakim||

    And man, is this comment form on this website fucked up. If I don't post a comment right after logging in, it logs me out and swallows the comment, never to be seen again. I tried enabling third-party cookies, but that didn't seem to make a difference, nor should it be necessary.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Rick Santorum,

    I'm against globalization. I want American businesses in America to succeed, not American businesses that move to China.

    You should also be against Pennsylvannia businesses moving to Alabama, as the economic effect is the same as if it moved to China, for Pennsylvannia workers. Or an Allegheny business relocating to Westmoreland, as the economic impact would be the same as if it moved to Alabama, for Allegheny workers. Or to move across the Monongahela - do you catch my drift?

  • FD||

    Doubtful that he can. I had to just belch when he said that libertarians worship the rich.
    Such asininity but, unsurprisingly, you delivered the well deserved smack down.
    Jeesh, they're out there.

  • Calidissident||

    I'm beginning to suspect we might be talking to the real Santorum ...

  • jeffm8||

    Highly doubtful. Studies such as this are almost always wrong because they can't possibly take into account what hasn't been invented yet. I have also spent quite a bit of time in Asia on business, and I have noticed that many of them lack critical thinking and problem solving skills. This is something that the west is good at, and it's very difficult to measure and quantify.

  • Coach Panto||

    Agree with all except "Rising inequality" as a root cause "headwind". Rising inequality results from the second headwind, educational failure.

    Also agree that "fixing our moribund public schools has proven next to impossible"

    the govt monopoly on education needs to be broken, but even if that happens, four other govt-caused factors contribute to educational failure:

    1. Welfare. It discourages education and personal responsibility.
    2. Drug prohibition. that encourages entry by welfare recipients into a lucrative black market, so they can double dip.
    3. Affirmative Action. Discourages competition, encourages grievance politics and extortion.
    4. Marxist politicking. This causes people to blame the rich for all their problems, and claim positive rights to stuff (food, medicine, housing, etc)

    The only way to reverse this kind of cultural rot is to severely limit got entitlement programs, end drug prohibition, and not only vote out Marxist politicians, but don't hire Marxist people. Let them parasite off each other. the cultural divide is getting bigger, and it should. One side is full of fackin parasites, the others get robbed by the parasites. Fack em. Let them eat their own Marxist gack.

  • pradaguccioutlet@gmail.co||

    It’s a tie game, folks: With the first of three presidential debates down and the vice presidential sideshow over, the two men at the top of the major party tickets will face off once again in yet another 90 minute debate, but putting on a carefully scripted show. cheap nfl jerseys positions. If either candidate started talking a good libertarian talk, even if only on a few subjects, they wouldn't ever be trusted this late in the game. And the game here is not just this general election but the whole of their political careers.

  • pradaguccioutlet@gmail.co||

    Let us hope the preceding paragraphs rouse the nation’s guardians from their torpid slumber, and alert them to the peril that threatens the very fabric of our nation. Let us hope. This insouciance seems ill-advised, when you reflect that Virginia’s Eastern Shore, where the chicken attack took place, is home to the Wallops Island Spaceport – a crucial piece of the nation’s transportation infrastructurecheap nfl jerseys positions. I can't tell if this article was Hinkle trying, poorly, to make a point about regulatory waste or Hinkle doing a rambling Andy Rooney schtick, poorly.

  • John Steinsvold||

    An Alternative to Capitalism (since we cannot legislate morality)

    Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: "There is no alternative". She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

    I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: "Home of the Brave?" which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

    http://evans-experientialism.f.....nsvold.htm

    John Steinsvold

    “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."~ Albert Einstein

  • شات عراقنا||

    thank u

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement